Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Those Pesky Zionists

Before traveling to Italy I did a spot of reading. The usual guide books are fine if you wish to know that museums are closed on Mondays in Florence, or that the taxis in Venice are as expensive as a college education at Harvard (and they only go on water anyway). If you wish to know anything significant about the places you're about to visit, however, guide books are a poor bet.

For Venice I found an old book, published 50 years ago by an Englishman who lived there for a while and wrote a mildly eccentric book about the place. James Morris, Venice. It was lots of fun. A bit dated, true, but all the important parts of the story happened long ago anyway, and the last 50 years haven't added anything of significance and for the updated part I had those guide books.

So far so fine. Being a professional navel-gazer, I couldn't help but noticing the (very few) parts of the plot that deal with... us, of course. So how's this:
In Venice you can enjoy the pleasures of the Orient without suffering its torments. Flies are few, mosquitoes are decreasing, beggars are unpersistent, water is wholesome, nationalism is restrained, nobody is going to knife you, or talk about Zionism, or blame you for Kashmir.... (p.196)
1960, I remind you. There were no illegal Jewish settlements upsetting American presidents back in 1960. Osama B. was three years old. Why, even Arafat hadn't invented the PLO yet. Englishmen in the "Orient", however, were being blamed for Zionism and Kashmir. Then and now.


Anonymous said...

TALK about Zionism
BLAME for Kashmir

whatever he wanted to imply by the difference or whether he just wanted to write pretty the sequence is intriguing and I wonder quite often why Kashmir where not so long ago Pakistan and India stood opposite eachother with their atomic bombs at the ready is so rarely in the news just as if nothing were happening there and if something were happening it wouldn't concern us


Anonymous said...

The Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the world's police blotter.

People can be slaughtered by the thousands somewhere (Sri Lanka, Congo) and it rates a small mention in the New York Times.

Some Jews and Arabs skirmish in the West Bank and it gets a photo and article.


Barry Meislin said...

...and James Morris was, well, still James Morris....

Anonymous said...

your cryptic remark made me check ...
today she is Jan Morris and female - she/he had a stint at the Guardian and reported the Suez crisis - no wonder Yaacov found the book interesting


Yaacov said...

Yes, I'd noticed that about the fellow, too. But it seemed - and still seems - irrelevant to the book. Tho I see the humor in Barry's formulation.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean primarily her gender switch making her interesting but that amongst other stuff he/she reported the Suez crisis from Cyprus which may explain why talk about Zionism got on her nerves and Cyprus rings in connection with Venice for me all kinds of bells - also how such a tiny spot could command (militarily) such huge ground and make such trouble for Byzantium
- and as to later on I once heard a French writer describing how it was when their yearly ambassadors from then already Osmanic Byzantium reported on their impressions and findings for days on end to the serenissima or whoever